Thursday, January 31, 2008

Partner with relatives?

Found this video on You Tube. Does a good job of discussing the pros and cons of having relatives as partners in your business.

Before going into the a partnership of any kind I would highly recommend you weigh the pros and cons and talk with an attorney and a tax accountant. In most cases a corporation is a better entity to use than a regular partnership.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Books from my reading list...

Here are some books that I recommend for everyone to read. The links will take you to Amazon to purchase if you are interested.

The first one is the autobiography of Zig Ziglar. Not only does he give you some of the background on the many stories he tells but you also learn more about how the became the person he is.

The second one is from a guy who started off as a nanny in Los Angeles and is now the Executive Producer of Survivor

Next one is from Brian Tracy who is a success and personal achievement authority. The book describes a trip he took when he was 20 and the many lessons learned on the journey that helps him through life.

The next one is one of Zig’s new books and I am currently reading it. It has some great stories.

These are good books and I hope you will take a look at.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

30 Second Speech...

Do you have your elevator speech ready?

You’re probably asking yourself, what the heck I am talking about having your elevator speech ready. Simply put, when you get in an elevator today, or on the light rail train, or any place were you meet someone, can you explain your business in 30 seconds or less?

I went to a meeting of consultants in Reno this past October. While there one of the sessions was talking about marketing yourself and one of the emphases was on being able to describe your business in 30 seconds or less. The gentleman who ran the session cornered me the first night and I tried to give one but I babbled on.

By the last day I was able to give a great 30 second speech on what I do for a living. While for some this may seem simple, we try to interject so much into talking about what we do, that we do not have a concise quick speech about it.

I would recommend you practice giving a 30 second speech until you get you have it down pat. Then you can meet someone and quickly promote yourself and impress the person you’re talking to. The Freelance Folder also has some information on this.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Starting A Small Business Series-Company Information

In the first part of preparing your actual business plan we talked about the marketing section. This week we will go over Company Information.

As can you can tell from the title, this section of the business plan deals with your company and how it would be organized.

You will want to mention the type of business organization you have chosen and an explanation of why you choose that form of business. You will also want to include information about the people who will be running the business such as yourself including what you will bring to the table from abilities, knowledge and drive.

You will also want to make some comment on how all of these elements will work together to build a successful business. I have mentioned in the past how important mentors for you and would recommend mentioning that you do have mentors in your weak areas so that you can overcome those.

If your company is a corporation, have information about the board of directors and once again what they will bring to the table to make the business a success.

While this will not be a large section of the business plan, it is the section that you get to talk about what you bring to the table. This is not the time to be modest but on the other hand make sure that you are honest about your abilities. In fact, honesty in this point will gain you brownie points and gain more by saying that you have mentors in this area.

For more information see the Small Business Administration website.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Declutter your life...

I have found the Bootstrapper Blog to have some wonderful resources.

Today is no different as it has a listing of 50 online resources to help unclutter your life. Clutter is one of the things that does more damage than anything else in the house and in our cars.
I have to admit that for years I was a pack rat and kept everything that I might want to have sometime in the future. Meanwhile I collected more and more stuff to the point once my wife and I were married and she also happens to be a pack rat, combined with the fact that we are both sentimental, you can imagine how much stuff we had.

But after watching the TLC show Clean Sweep and reading a book from its main organizer Peter Walsh, I have slowly changed my ways.

My office is still pretty cluttered since it is also the only place with a spare closet, but we are slowly getting rid of most of access and we have set a goal of being uncluttered by Easter so we can have family over.

Take a look at the resources offered on the Bootstrapper blog and get clutter under control.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Working Capital

During the Starting a Small Business Series we have gone over some of the basics of making your business plan and will continue that series until you are ready to print it out and start selling it.

One of the most important things going to the operation of the business is going to be how much working capital you have. Under capitalization is one of the biggest problems facing many small businesses but on the other hand it is often the only way you can get started as was the case with me.

The Accounting Solver Blog has some more information on working capital so take a look at that as it could be a good reference for you.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tips for those working from home.

Top 30 Tips for Staying Productive and Sane While Working From Home

The Zen Habits blog has these 30 tips to saying productive and since some of you how are planning on starting their own business will be working from home, this will come in handy. Since my office is also at home I thought these tips were good.

I agree that you must have a define work space. That way you are away from the rest of the house. I also find it helpful to have a door that you can close so when you are doing important business you will not have to worry about noise.

Another suggestion they have is have a good chair. This is another item that is so important. You are going to spend many hours in your office working on your computer you need a good office chair with good ergonomics. I am one to talk right now since my office chair broke and since I have not bought a new you yet I am using a winged high back chair right now that is supposed to be used by visitors.

I would also have set times you need to be working. These times are work times and everyone should know not to bother you while you are working during these periods. Also track your time so you know how many hours you are putting in and don't fudge!!

These are a few that stood out for me. Go over to the Zen Habits blog and see what suggestions stand out to you.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Invoicing Services

The Bootstrapper Blog has a listing of 20 on line invoice services. I also offered some comments on my other blog Biz Plan Hacks.

As a small business owner you need to keep cost down. When it comes to invoice software the most popular is Quickbooks which is also expensive although going down in price every year. However, there is cheaper alternatives that I don't recommend because of their lack of functionality.

What I said on my other website is to figure out your needs, look at all the alternatives, figure out of they meet your needs for the next couple of years, make sure they are easy for you to use and finally stick to one.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Starting A Small Business Series-The Marketing Analysis

We have talked about some of the important ingredients of a business plan, now it is time to get to the nitty gritty and start looking at the important sections of the business plan.

While you may vary your business plan depending on the type of business you are trying to start, you will want to make sure the basics are in your plan. The first of the basics is the market analysis.

The first part of the marketing analysis is the industry description and outlook. This is where you discuss the type of business that you plan to start. You will want to be very specific in all the details. If you are opening a retail store, what kind of retail store? Is it going to sell model trains, be a tourist shop, are you going to build something? Answer these questions. Then you will want to mention what the market is doing. Using the model train analogy you will want to mention that the market for model trains is going down due to market maturity and what the long term trends look like. If you’re opening a tourist shop what is the long term outlook for tourist in the area? Will a new tourist attraction open soon? Once again be very detailed.

Next you will want to identify your target market. How are you planning to sell to? How big is the market you are going after in your location? What characteristics does your market have? Are there needs already being met but you will offer something new and innovative? Once again the more detailed the better.

From the research you have done, why you will be able to sell to this market. How will you gain market share over your competitors. How much market share will gain from your geographical area and what is the market growth potential.

You also need to detail how the market is changing. If you were looking to start building computers you would need detailed information on how the computer industry has changed over the last 10 years and how you would stay ahead of the curve.

How did you come up with your marketing data? Potential investors will want to know the resources you used such as Chamber of Commerce data, census information, media outlets, trade groups and any other information you were able to find.

You will also want to detail any marketing tests you preformed and the data that was brought forth.

What will be the lead times? If you are building computers, how much time from the moment of customer order till the customer receives their product?

The next subject would be your competitive analysis. Who are your competitors and what advantages will you have over them? You will want to provide what you will be able to do well and what will be your weaknesses. While we don’t like to point out the negatives, you will have some disadvantages and you will want to spell them out otherwise your potential investors will feel that you are trying to sugar coat everything.

Finally you will want to discuss any regulatory hurdles you will have jump to start the business. You will want specifics on cost of applications, what you have to accomplish, legal fees, and time costs.Once again I have to stress that you need to have everything in the marketing plan to be very detail and specific. The more detail the better.

For more information look at the Small Business Administration Website.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Are you a procrastinator?

I have to say yes to this question unfortunately but I have found ways to over come it. The Putt it off Blog has 28 ways in which you can overcome it yourself.

I overcame it by setting very specific goals with specific targets and sticking to them. I also have a very competitive spirit so I use that to be a motivating factor.

Take a look at some of the suggestions and see what will work for you. Just because it works for person A does not mean it will work for person B, so you need to find your own path to overcoming this vise.

Here is another area where a mentor can help you. Seek someone that can watch over you and motivate you to overcome the problem. Don't let procrastination harm your potential for success, overcome the problem and be stronger for it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

January is Building Time...

Time to get the shoppers back into your store…

After having lived through the Christmas season you almost feel like you can take a breather before you face the long year ahead. But instead of sitting back and relaxing, it is time to get those customers back into the store according to this New York Times article.

I have to agree with the article. While we all know the Christmas season is tuff, it’s the months between January and March that really make the business. While sales may not be what they are in the Christmas season, this is the time of the year to build your customer loyalty, really focus on the customer service, and turn those one time customers into customers for life.

The Babe of Business blog has eight things you can do to increase your business. While you should be doing these kind of things year around, now is the perfect time to entice customers into the store and build your loyal clientele.

Now is also a good time to building relationships and building joint marketing programs with complimentary businesses. Find businesses that sell complimentary products to yours or have complimentary services and work together to build business in your stores. You can do joint advertising, promote the other in your store, and build a long term relationship that will benefit both businesses.

January is not the time to rest, it’s the time to build your business and make your business a success year round.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Accomplishing Goals?

What action have you taken in 2008?

The Freelance Folder blog is asking what you have done so far in the 2008 year to do something new and get moving with your projects.

We are two weeks into the New Year so how are you doing on accomplishing your goals? Do you have your goals written down and are referencing them on a daily basis? Remember having written down goals is very critical to success. You need to have daily, weekly, monthly, short term (less than one to two years), medium range (1 to 5 years) and the all important long term goals (more than 5 years-the big goals).

Each time you accomplish a goal you will get excited. Now it’s the big goals that get you excited by every time you accomplish even a daily goal it creates excitement. I set goals for the day and every time I can scratch one of them off it gets me excited to get to the next one and the next one after that. Pretty soon you start accomplishing your short range goals which creates more excitement and one you reach on of your long range goals you are in heaven (not literally unless of course that was you ultimate goal).

So take a few minutes and write down those goals!!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Starting A Small Business Series-Business Plan Essentials:

I have started with the basics when it comes to getting your business plan up and going. Today I will show you some of the essential elements you will need in your business plan. In future weeks we will discuss each one of them and then talk about other things you may want to include in it.

From the Small Business Administration website here are the essentials you will want in your business plan:

Executive Summary

Market Analysis

Company Description

Organization & Management

Marketing & Sales Management

Service or Product Line

Funding Request



Your business plan may require more information since every plan is different. But this is the bare minimum you will want. Even though the Executive Summary comes first in the business plan we will talk about it last since you should write it last.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Get A PO Box

Do you have a PO Box?

My Organizing Biz has a blog on why you should have a PO Box plus your regular mailing address.

I post office box is a great place to send mail that you know is going to result in solicitations. When you apply for a business license it becomes public record and will be in the local business journal. While this is good because it is free publicity for you, there are many businesses out there that look at these listings as a source to cold call. When you have the official business sent to the post office box, all that junk mail will also go into the box and not into your personal mail box.

I would recommend going to the PO Box more than Kelly does in the blog. I visit my Post Office box at least one per week. That way I do get all the important papers such as government forms but also can get rid of the junk mail so my box doesn’t get too full since the local postal employees get upset about that.

For the most part PO Boxes are not that expensive although I am paying almost 3 times as much in Holladay, Utah as I did in Spokane, Washington so what area you live in does play a factor.

Avoid the hassles, get a PO Box.

Starting on a Budget

You can start a business on a budget?

Yaro Starak from the Entrepreneur Journeys blog goes into detail on how he started his businesses with little money but has made a go of it.

While we would all love to have tons of money to get started you there is economic ways to get started and the internet provides many of them.

Take a look at some of the ideas presented as they could be the catalyst for you and your adventure. Just remember that not everything is going to work for everyone but take things that will work best for you and build on it.

You will never know what you can achieve until you give it a try. Remember to believe in yourself.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Six Lessons from Stephen King?

The Freelance Folder Blog has six lessons learned from Salem’s Lot and Stephen King about Freelancing. While it was written toward freelancers, it has information that applies to most any small business.

Lesson one is to trust the prickling on your neck. In other words if something doesn’t feel right, don’t do just for the business. Many times people just starting out or smaller operators want the business so bad that they are willing to deal in situations that may not be for the best. Remember it is better to turn down work that is going to end up being a bigger nightmare than it is worth than accepting the sale or project and having a living nightmare on your hands.

Lesson Two is if the locals say the house is haunted, don’t go ghost hunting. In other words listen to the warning of others. If someone says they have had problems with this person or this company or they have other warnings about dealings, make sure you take their warnings to heart. Once again if you don’t you could end up with a nightmare on your hands.

Lesson Three says do not hang around with people that suck the life out of you. In other words avoid people who are emotional and spiritual vampires. I have a sister in law like this; she will suck every emotion out of you. We feel drained after having to deal with her for just a short time. Find people that stimulate you and make you feel good, whether it be an employee, partner, spouse, or friends.

Lesson Four is if the problem is bigger than you get help. In other words find a mentor who can help you with your business. Find people that you can collaborate with and build your business.

Lesson Five is that there is three ways out of a situation gone bad: 1. Stay and Fight and Die a miserable death, 2. Stay Fight and Barely Survive, or 3. you can run and hope it doesn’t catch up with you. Well you probably won’t die from a business project gone bad (ok, I guess that depends on who the project was with), but you may wish you were dead. There are times you just need to cut loose, lick your wounds, and deal with the losses.

Finally Lesson Six is Keep the Faith. Have faith that in the long run you will be build your business and become the success that you see fit.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Starting A Small Business Series-Cash Flow Statements

We’ve talked about the Profit and Loss Statement and the Balance Sheet and now we come to the important cash flow statement.

While a P&L will tell you if you made money, the cash flow statement tells you how much cash you have to operate your business. I will give you the basics of the cash flow and you can find more information at the Accounting Coach website.

First you start off with your balance of cash in the bank. So say you have $1000.00 left over from December as you enter January, that will go to the top of your cash flow. Next you add in any cash payments you have receive (or are projecting to receive). Next you add in payments you receive from credit accounts (accounts receivable). Finally you add in any investment income. This would be any investment you make into the business for example say you put $1000.00 towards a computer out of personal funds.

Then you subtract any payments you make during the month. This will include every cash payment you make such as rent, utilities, operating supplies. You subtotal that amount, and then add any capital purchases, loan principal and any draws you take. Say you take out $10.00 to go get your self lunch; that is taken out of your cash flow because that money is no longer there for company purchases.

You then subtract your outgoing from your incoming cash and you have your ending cash balance. Your ending cash balance from January then becomes your beginning cash balance for February and you start all over again.

Here is a sample Excel spreadsheet showing a cash flow statement.

Cash Flow Statement

Next week we will start detailing what you need in your business plan.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A Lazy Employee?

Do you have a lazy employee?

The Bootstrapper Blog has 20 Fail-Proof ways to expose a lazy employee.

Now there are a couple of problems with this. First of all if you have only one employee and they are the one that is lazy, trying to get rid of them is going to be a lot of hassle and you will have to do everything yourself until you find a new employee.

The other thing to consider is what some of these items will have on the moral of your people. While you may have one bad employee by installing cameras or some of the other items talked about could make other employees feel as though do not trust them.

I once worked for a rental car company and the owner of the franchise wanted to install cameras on the front counter to insure that the employees were working constantly and not standing around. Guess what, it did nothing to the lazy employee, it just caused the other employees to feel like the owner hated them and the company loss several good employees.

The best thing I could suggest is to be observant and make sure to make sure everything you do is written down and documented. Many times a lazy employees fellow employees will take care of the situation themselves.